News Copilot mistakes rudder trim for door lock, rolls 737

Ark

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http://gizmodo.com/5844628/a-passenger-airplane-nearly-flew-upside-down-because-of-a-dumb-pilot

An All Nippon Airways passenger plane carrying 117 passengers on board experienced a little bit of a scare earlier this month. Why? Because a numb-brained pilot accidentally almost made a Boeing 737-700 fly belly up, as in upside freaking down.

A 737 is not a freaking stunt plane. It shouldn't be barrel rolling, belly upping in the sky—especially with passengers on board. Amazingly everyone is safe, only two flight attendants were hurt and only a few passengers complained about feeling weird (it was obviously stomach turning).


Here's what happened: the co-pilot mistook the rudder trim knob for the cockpit door lock switch so when he "opened the door" for his captain, he actually caused the jet to roll and drop 1,900 meters in 30 seconds. According to internal investigations, "the narrow-body aircraft continued to roll until it reached 131.7 degrees to the left, leaving it almost belly-up. Its nose pointed down as much as 35 degrees at one point."


It's a dumb move on the co-pilot's part and one that could've possibly ended in disaster. Everyone on board is lucky to be alive.

Oops. :lol:

I didn't even know a 737 could roll like that. I'm sure a number of passengers were in a hurry to retrieve their luggage and unpack a fresh pair of pants.
 

Cras

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There is that famous picture of when the Boeing 707 was being shown to potential customers and the test pilot decided to show off its capability and did a barrell roll. As you can imagine, the test pilot got yelled at pretty hard by the Boeing brass, but he continued to insist that the plane was never in any danger.

Now doing that to a jetliner full of passengers and luggage, no the best idea this guy ever had. And considering that the door lock controls are at the far bottom right of the center pedestal, that being the first officers side, it is quite hard to get confused. The term "idiot" springs to mind when I think of this first officer and this stupid mistake.

Thankfuly nobody got got seriously hurt, aside from their wits that is. My goodness, a 131.7 bank in a jet liner, crazy.
 

N_Molson

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Impressive. It shows that the 737 is quite a sturdy plane, the aerodynamic constraints must have been severe. :blink:
 

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I'd like to get a confirmation of this article. Phrases like these: "numb-brained pilot", "A 737 is not a freaking stunt plane." just make it sound like an urban legend to me.

Also:
"the co-pilot mistook the rudder trim knob for the cockpit door lock switch so when he "opened the door" for his captain, he actually caused the jet to roll and drop 1,900 meters in 30 seconds."

This doesn't sound very credible to me. First off, just the "oops" part. I'm not familiar with the 737 cockpit - or any other large airliner for that matter, but I'd imagine door knob and rudder trim would be quite a bit away.

Second, while the rudder does have the ability to roll the plane, I doubt it would be able to quickly roll it around, even under full rudder deflection. Trim sounds even less likely.


There is that famous picture of when the Boeing 707 was being shown to potential customers and the test pilot decided to show off its capability and did a barrell roll.


[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vHiYA6Dmws"]707 roll - YouTube[/ame]
 

Turbinator

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If a fully loaded 747 (China Airlines Flight 006) can do a complete barrel roll, so to can a 737.
Many people confuse airliner capabilities with that of paper air planes.
It is not so, they are tough machines built to very high tolerances.










.
 
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RisingFury

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If a fully loaded 747 (China Airlines Flight 006) can do a complete barrel roll, so to can a 737.

I'm not doubting the ability of the plane to do a roll. I'm doubting the article. Even if the rudder trim was set to full, the plane wouldn't turn too fast. The 707 in the video takes over 10 seconds to do the roll. I think the pilot and co-pilot would be able to correct way before that.
 

garyw

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RisingFury is correct and if rudder trim was that sensitive this sort of thing would have happened before. There is more to this than just a rudder trim motion
 

Grover

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:facepalm:

surely, he is now no longer working for an airline
 

garyw

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I hope he is. Everyone makes mistakes. If people were fired for every mistake you'd have no one employed today.
 

Cras

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The trim knobs and the door knob are close to each other, and they are circular nobs, but still, it is not a good excuse. The switches are not the same type, the door one for instance is spring loaded, the shapes are different, size is different, not to mention the trim one has white letters saying RUDDER TRIM.

But it is a very good point. Trim alone would not cause this, nor do I see how the situation could be allowed to continue to a near inverted attitude, that the two pilots would ignore the bank angle aural warning and only decide that something needed to be done when their hats fell off their heads because they were upside down.

And I too have yet to see it reported on the aviation sites. If this actually did happen, I would have expected to see it posted on flightaware by now.

---------- Post added at 03:57 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:52 PM ----------

I hope he is. Everyone makes mistakes. If people were fired for every mistake you'd have no one employed today.

I hope he is not. A mistake for an airline pilot is a rough landing, bounce at touchdown, take too much fuel, have to fly a go around. That is a mistake.

Mistakes any bigger than that will at least warrant suspensions. The two NWA pilots that fell asleep (which I would much prefer my two pilots do than invert the plane) had their ATPs stripped, no more flying passengers for them. Even things like breaking a departure or arrival procedure, breaking altitude (while not in an emergency) will result in government action to suspend your license, not to mention this story implies putting everyone's life at risk, not just a deviation penatly.

I understand, and agree, with forgiving mistakes, we all make mistakes. But if this is true, this is not a mistake, this is careless, negligent, incompetent, and there is no place for that in aviation, especially in commercial aviation where you are flying people who have paid you to get them from point a to point b safely.
 

Scav

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The biggest problem I have with this story:

A 737-700 is mentioned. If I'm not mistaken, this is a recent series of the 737 family, and the control system in place for this aircraft is largely fly-by-wire.

That means the on-board computer will not let the aircraft exceed certain values for pitch and bank, and will take corrective action to return the aircraft to an upright position if possible.

If not possible, the cockpit would certainly become a very noisy place in short order.

:hmm:
 

SiberianTiger

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I hope he is. Everyone makes mistakes. If people were fired for every mistake you'd have no one employed today.

In Moscow subway, if a train driver ever drives through past a red light, he gets fired. That is despite the fact that automatic brake would kick in in that case. Nobody looks at past experience or merits records of one who trespasses a red light.

Brutal, but that way you never have train collisions in a subway.
 

Cras

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The biggest problem I have with this story:

A 737-700 is mentioned. If I'm not mistaken, this is a recent series of the 737 family, and the control system in place for this aircraft is largely fly-by-wire.


No fly by wire in the 737 NGs. Still the old fashioned connection to the control surfaces. And I don't think the 737 MAX is going to be FBW either.
 

Scav

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Cras said:
No fly by wire in the 737 NGs.
Ahh, okay. There goes my theory right out the window. :D
 

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But it is a very good point. Trim alone would not cause this, nor do I see how the situation could be allowed to continue to a near inverted attitude, that the two pilots would ignore the bank angle aural warning and only decide that something needed to be done when their hats fell off their heads because they were upside down.

Trim alone could cause it if left unattended for a stupidly long time (long enough to make the situation being allowed to continue to 130 degrees of bank even more unbelievable, though).

But, assuming that they were paying absolutely no attention to the view outside or to their artificial horizon, the pilots would *not* be warned of the problem by their hats falling off their heads. Unless the crew actually *intended* to invert the aircraft, and to maintain level flight while doing so, it would almost certainly remain under positive g's for the duration of the maneuver.

This is supported by the fact that "only a few passengers complained about feeling weird" (which also makes the story a bit more believable: A hoax would be likely to report things on the floor falling towards the ceiling and passengers terrified to find themselves upside down).

The description certainly sounds like what would happen in an accidental inversion of the aircraft (nose dropping as the plane rolls, no indication of negative g's), but the description of how it started, and the fact that nobody has found other articles supporting the story, do make it suspicious.

But, if it is a hoax (I'll call it a 50/50 chance), it was certainly hoaxed by someone with knowledge of how such a situation would progress (a pilot, perhaps), and not by a member of the general public.
 

Cras

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I was thinking that it could happen, but a roll that slow (and lets just assume if this story is true that the FOs stupidity is practicaly infinity and if you caused this to happen he then continues to ignore the aural warnings), there will get to a point where the bank angle is high enough, but the speed of the roll is not fast enough, that the plane will just slide out of the sky and stall, since a roll does alter the AoA of the wings in opposite directions.

I would assume the Yaw Damper is on, which is standard procedure. So as the airplane gets yaw, it will roll, and as it gets roll it will yaw, to keep the turn coordinated, which adds an additional control surface, the ailerons, but how the Yaw Damper would behave in an extreme condition like this I have no idea.

But I get more and more convinced that this never happened.
 
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